Facing facts…

Back again
Sorry i haven’t blogged for a while…

Lots to write about , not sure I will write about it all in this blog or it would be less of a blog and more of a book!!!

Firstly I would like to talk about the amazing time I had at Barbury this weekend with Jimmy Shoo , Barbury is by far my favourite event.. It started badly however! I was busy enjoying my lunch on Friday at 2.15m when I reliesed my dressage test was at 2.55pm and not 4.55pm as I thought it was!!
Needless to say after lots of running , throwing plaits in and a gallop down to the arenas I got there just in time – needless to say our test wasn’t great.. But hey ho , onwards and upwards!!!

Yesterday Jimmy really pulled his finger out to jump one of only 2 double clears inside the time to pull up from 60th after dressage to 8th.. There were only 4 inside the time in 300 starters in the CIC2*
We finished 2 seconds under the time without me wearing my stop watch , when the time is really hard to get on the XC like it was yesterday I prefer to ride without a watch , that way I ride as quick as I can knowing the time is tight but I ride with my head and feel and not from looking at my watch..
Jimmy was super – really on it and gave me a fantastic ride not missing a beat anywhere , We took strides out in the combinations XC but not in wild way!! Just in a proper old fashioned forwards XC riding way , I saw my strides way out from the fence and kept travelling to it , trusting Jimmy to be straight and on it.. Which he was! Then galloping away as soon as we had landed , trying not to waste a second anywhere.. Yesterday there where 25 fences.. Wasting half a second at each fence is 13 seconds and 5.2 time pens.. Very easy to clock up the time pens if you think about it like that!!

The last 4 fences were all straight forward ‘galloping’ but square enough to respect fences , they were running slightly down hill , I made sure I just set Jimmy up that little bit more for them. It wouldn’t be fair to throw him at those and risk a bad jump or a fall on slightly tired legs when he had tried he’s heart out all the way round for me.

I have in the past been very outspoken about my strong views on horses fittness , Jimmy is a horse we struggle to know how fit he is.. Galloping at home he never picks up the bridle – even if you gallop him with a friend he is very happy to go steadily in behind!! He was the same yesterday on the XC , he barely picked up the bridle at start and still hadn’t picked up the bridle at the finish!! He jumped fantastically however and recovered very quickly after finishing.. In fact he recovered a damn sight quicker than me!! I was blowing like a train.. A wake up call that I need to be fitter , I was pretty much riding a finish from fence one to keep him up to his work but even so.. I know from race riding when you start to get tired the first thing that goes is your mental sharpness and thats when you make mistakes.. So back to the gym I go tomorrow!!!
After my fall 6 weeks ago then getting kicked 2 weeks ago my body just hasn’t been up to going (well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!!)

This brings me on to a article I saw a few days ago asking if modern day eventing is pushing horses and riders too far (I’m guessing referring to the recent deaths..
There was a horrid photo from years and years ago of a horse dead in a open ditch whilst another horse was trying to jump and clearly about to fall in/at the same fence.. It confused me – I mean why put such a awful photo from the 1960/70’s when talking about how unfair eventing is now?!?!

The fact of the matter is eventing has got softer over the years – there’s no longer any phase A , B and C to do before even think about galloping round the XC.. Also no minimum weight to carry..

As far as I can work out our XC courses are no longer than they were ‘back in the day’ when you also had phases A , B and C.. Yes courses are far more technical now but on the flip side we don’t have those horrid unjumpable gut busting unforgiving fences you often see in photos of old..

But the levels of training we get now are far higher than back when people just used to take there hunters to Badminton!!!

For me it is more to do with the fact that we are getting further and further away from the riding/eventing the full TB – who are bred to gallop , jump and stay..

My 2 four star horses were –

The Busker (Ginger) 16.2hh 3/4 TB but basically a very smart hunter!

Little Tiger (Frosty) 14.3hh 7/8 TB but a total machine!!

Both horses competed at the highest level and also at very wet Burghley’s (in differnt years) both finishing in the top 15..

Now we got Ginger as fit as we possiabley could.. But he had no reserves , when he hit ‘the wall’ that was it he was out – I did my first Burghley on him and he gave me the most amazing ride , we were flying and up on the time running down hill to the trout hatchery 4/5 fences from home.. He jumped thou the trout hatchery like the super star he was then we had to run slighty up hill and that was it – less that 2 mins from home and he blew up. I knew there was no ‘extra’ with Ginger and that he was always doing his best for me , so I knocked my watch off and nursed him home.. He finished a very tired horse but I knew I hadn’t pushed him that bit to far and I looked after him over those last 4/5 fences just like he had looked after me over the pervious 23/24 fences. He pulled out very well the next day and jumped a super round for just one down.

Now on to Frosty!!! My god what engine she had!!
The year she did Burghley it was very wet tacky holding ground , we were pretty much last to go and the ground was horrid.. You would think being as small as she was (honestly she was 14.3hh!!) jumping those massive fences out of bottomless ground would be to much for her.. But she skipped across the ground – however Frosty hit ‘the wall’ a good 2&1/2 mins from home , a lot sooner than I thought she would at the time but I knew she had those reserves a horse bred to gallop , jump and stay has… I kept hold of her head , backed off her for 30/40 sec and let her fill her lungs again and she was off!!!! Back on the bridle and galloped to line like the class pony she was.. Once I was off her she was tired , very tired in fact – not that she would let it show if he could possibly help it!! Again she pulled out well the next day to jump a super round for one down also…

Without a doubt in my mind Ginger wouldn’t have got round Badminton this year unless I nursed him round slowly , not because he wasn’t a fantastic xc horse because he was.. He only has 2 XC penalties on his record , one being a UR of his rider and the other the most unlucky stop after falling up a step and he just couldn’t bounce up over the rail that followed.
But he just wasn’t bred to stay and gallop 3/4 miles… No amount of fittness will make him be able too.
It’s a simple fact of life.

Frosty I really believe could have been in the top 10 , she would have loved it and winged round , skipping across the ground..
She simply was bred with that class to stay and gallop that Ginger wasn’t..
Fact of life..

As I’ve said so many times before I wished people would stop looking to pass the blame on to courses , course builders etc… I’m sad to say we are turning in to a sport were its everyone elses fault other than our own!!

Our sport is called ‘eventing’ not ‘dressage , show jumping with a canter round a hunter trial added in for good measure’
It’s a sport that should favor the brave and fast XC horses and riders. Fact.

I’m sure if someone looked back over the years at the sport of eventing there would be 3 things that stood out the most..

1. How over all the xc courses are better built and much more horse friendly now.

2. How much less of a stamina test eventing is now with there no longer being any roads and tracks or steepe chase.

3. How far fewer full TB are evented.

I believe our sport lost its way a little with dressage and showjumping having to much influence and the XC to little and because of that people (fairly) went to the more warmblood lines to stay competitive..

I hope our sport stays in a similar vein that Badminton was this year , I think it was great to see no William Fox-Pitt , Mark Todd or Andrew Nicholson in the top 15.. Gives people outside the top 10/15 riders in the world hope that even if they aren’t in the lead after the dressage a brave and skilled XC round can put them right up there with the best of them and it’s not just about who flicks there hooves best or having a face that fits in the first phase..

It may not have been Badminton but my 8th place at Barbury proved that a proper cross country course can sort the men from the boys , give us mere mortals hope and showed our sport doesn’t need to be renamed quite yet…

Over and out … Have a great weekend everyone!!